Magic, ultimately, is a game of leveraging imperfect information. You know what cards are in your hand and deck, you know what cards are in play, but the rest is a slowly revealed logical puzzle. You know nothing about your opponent’s deck when you sit down to play1, and your most immediate goal is to deduce his or her strategy in order to best counter it. Failing to use every shred of information to your advantage, while concealing as much of your own as possible, is only making your goal—winning—more difficult. Should trading be the same way?
For much of Magic‘s life, trading was also a game of imperfect information. For the first few years, Wizards kept a staggering amount of set information private. The company didn’t disclose the rarity of cards, nor print public set lists.
BRIEF ANECDOTAL ASIDE: Did you know there was a basic Island on the rare sheet for Alpha and Beta? Wizards didn’t want people to “figure out” what the rare card in the pack was, so they made one of the rares an Island. Awesome. Thanks, gang.
It was up to players and collectors (remember, prior to Chronicles, there were a lot of purely dedicated collectors) to know what cards were rarer than others, which ones were valuable, and what they could afford to trade away. You’ll often hear stories of people trading away dual lands for Shivan Dragons, or people giving up commons for rares—even Mark Rosewater himself traded his Fungusaur for his father’s Mox Emerald (both of those cards are rare, but which one would you rather have?). The resources available were woefully inadequate, and most traders determined value based on gut instinct. The internet, the great equalizer in information access, merely congealed this confluence of guesswork. It also looked like a hot mess.
Over the next couple of years, Magic trading developed some rudimentary tools, none more important at the time than pricing magazines. Players would carry around their copy of Scrye, Inquest, or Beckett, and those prices were gospel—at least until the next month’s issue arrived. It is staggering to think about now, but for the majority of players, prices were only updated about once a month, and that was on whatever schedule fit the publisher. Imagine if we only got “prices” once a month today: if prices were published based on pre-Pro Tour numbers, people would be trading Dragonlord Atarka at $7 for a month, only to see it bumped up to $20 a few weeks later.
The good news is that we no longer live in a world of imperfect information with regards to Magic pricing and finance. In fact, the access to up-to-the-minute information is so ubiquitous, that it may be hurting trading. Try to remember the last time you made a trade where both parties didn’t have their smart phone out looking up prices. It’s been a while, right? True or false: “How to Save a Life” by The Fray was playing in the background. …I knew it.
Recently, and this is a sentiment I’ve heard expressed by multiple others, it seems as though casual trading on the whole is down. My personal take on this is that people have become so concerned about trading away value to “sharks” that they are afraid to trade away something with potential value. I know that, based on my own experience (Yes, Reddit, I am using personal experience as the basis for my opinion), I have traded face to face only twice since GP New Jersey, and one was with a close, personal friend (I took a bit of a loss just to help him get a Modern deck put together)2. Trades at my LGS seem to be rarer than trades in the NFL3, and I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even carry a trade binder most of the time. When I do take a binder to an event, it is with the understanding that most of it will get buylisted to vendors.
BRIEF FOURTH-WALL BREAKING ASIDE: I typically save this kind of stuff until the end, but I’m not sure how many people actually make it that far. If you have any experiences with trading recently, good or bad, I’d love to hear them. Have you noticed a decline in face-to-face trading opportunities? Are people more reluctant? Now, get ready for one hell of a segue…
Despite the (possible) downswing of face-to-face trading, there is another way, and it seems to be doing better than ever. PucaTrade is about to see its millionth trade (any time now!), and after its successful Indiegogo campaign, there are a lot of new features coming down the pipeline.
Even though I have not been face-to-face trading nearly as much lately, my Puca game has been strong. One is not a total replacement for the other, however, and I want to talk about my personal use of the service, and how to fit it into the larger framework of a trading system.
The most immediate difference between PucaTrade and face-to-face trading is the costs of shipping, both monetary and temporal. The latter is roughly the same as ordering a card from an online store: it will arrive within a week, and there is a very small chance your card(s) will get lost or ruined in the mail4. Do not expect a card that is confirmed sent to you on Wednesday to arrive in time for Friday Night Magic.
The cost of time is a cost you pay on cards coming in, the monetary cost of shipping (stamps and other supplies) is one that you pay on cards going out. If you are primarily sending cards within the United States5, the cost is going to consist of a 49-cent stamp plus an envelope, toploader, sleeve, and some tape—maybe 65 to 75 cents, total. With PucaTrade, there are some additional features built into that cost that few people acknowledge: you are also “paying” for the site’s infrastructure and exposure (also, you’re helping the USPS, if that’s something you’re into). I have had a small amount of issues with trades on Puca, all of which were resolved swiftly and fairly by the support team. It is also a great feeling when you are able to unload something that has been rotting away in a binder for months to someone who genuinely wants it, and will give you the full amount in trade for it. However, since you want to get the absolute most for your money, I suggest not mailing out any cards that are less than the price of postage (I personally don’t often send out anything less than around 300 points), and when possible, bundle trades so that you can put multiple cards in the same envelope. Every time I commit to a trade, I click on my partner’s page to see what else I can send to him or her.
Another great thing about PucaTrade is that the infrastructure I mentioned encourages more people to trade. Because you know you are protected, more people who wouldn’t trade in person are encouraged to send their cards out. They also don’t feel pressured by the person sitting across from them, and are more willing to send away something for it’s fair price today than fretting about its potential price tomorrow. I suspect that, psychologically, there is something at play in the sense that when you see cards coming to you, you want to send more out to guarantee more coming in. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor, I just play one on television.
PucaTrade is not for everyone, however. If you are someone who is established on eBay or the Magic Online Trading League (MOTL), it is probably more worthwhile for you to get a percentage of the card’s value in cash versus 100 percent in eventual trade.
Also, while PucaTrade offers a wide range of exposure, it is a different type than we typically expect. Rather than broadcasting what you have to everyone (like on eBay), it is really everyone else broadcasting what they want. Nobody will trade for your crimped foil Russian Godsire unless you write it in your profile and they happen to read it and they happen to want it. Those are the kinds of cards that you want cash for, and that’s the type of thing you are better off advertising on eBay, MOTL, etc.
Personally, I use PucaTrade as a way of filtering in and out specs and cards I don’t have long-term faith in. I’ve opened up about nine copies of Dromoka’s Command, and it currently has a best buylist price (so easy to find thanks to MTGPrice!) of $5.12. Considering that I would have to pay the same shipping costs to send it to either StrikeZone (in this case) or a PucaTrader, it is in my best interest to get 937 points in trade. Assuming I sent out a playset this way (let’s call the shipping cost an even buck, since we don’t need four stamps), I can expect to get $19.48 in cash or $37.47 in trade—almost double! I don’t expect non-foil copies of any of the commands to be higher than $5 to $7 in a couple of months, so either option is likely a smart move, but that trade credit can be turned into things that I do have long-term faith in (or foils for my derpy Modern deck). By sprinkling your want list with cheap spec targets, you can get into a card at its floor in trade, which can allow you to sit on copies longer. You can also just ramp into Power, apparently (congrats, Chris!).
So that’s all I have to say about PucaTrade. I tried not to repeat the “Puca is so great!” articles that have been thrown out ad nauseam over the last couple years, but I do genuinely like the service and use it daily.
As always, I’d love to hear what y’all think, and I’ll see you next week!
1 Most of the time, unless you’re in the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, playing a friend, or a sneaky sneak. Many bothans died to secure this decklist.
2 The other trade was with a guy at my LGS who absolutely needed a card that we were out of stock on. That’s what it takes these days, apparently.
3 Philip Rivers will go to the Titans, and that team will still be terrible.
4 I always tell people to write “NON-MACHINABLE, DO NOT BEND” on their envelopes, but the US postal service is starting to charge more postage for non-machinable mail.
5 Sorry, friends in other parts of the world—I’m not familiar with how your national postal system works.
19 thoughts on “New World Offers”
I have still seen trading at my LGS but the only things ppl seem to want anymore are the “hot” standard cards (Dragonlords, Fetches, Siege Rhinos, etc…). There is very rarely trade involving average cards (unless it is with some of the kids who happen to be there [which is great – grow the game and don’t cheat kids as you said]). It seems most players want the high dollar cards but don’t want to pay for them so they would rather trade – everything else can just be bought online. The real problem is these same players who don’t want to spend cash to get the cards they want also don’t want to trade down their “hot” cards. There is a mindset of “I will only trade valuable cards for valuable cards” which is making trading hard to do (especially if you don’t have the exact card they are looking for at that moment). This also makes me ask these same players why they bother to have all those other cards in their “trade” binder to begin with. My aside – I personally hate it when people put cards in their trade binder and then go around and tell everyone those cards are not for trade. I can see that some are trying to see if there is interest in higher value cards but most people just do it for show which is just annoying. It screws up potential trades when you are factoring in those cards and then when you both are finalizing targets they up and say that section of my binder isn’t for trade. Then put them somewhere else! This scenario is rampant at my LGS which also makes trading difficult.
Don’t worry too much about trade binders being filled with standard cards. MM15 is right around the corner and trade binders are going to be full of it for a long time after. Remember all that growth MTG experienced awhile back? All those players have gotten into the “spec” game over the past two years, which has been dominated by standard.
Once MM15 hits I’m sure a lot of players that have been focused on increasing their trade binder value through standard cards will start shifting toward modern cards once they become more available. Not to mention newer players/traders are extremely weary of trading for expensive Modern cards until spoilers are out. Once spoilers hit, let the games begin!
Does your area have a lot of standard events? I know besides FNM and Game Day, my LGS doesn’t run many events, and few of the regulars travel to bigger standard tournaments. Maybe that’s why the standard stuff doesn’t move as well for us? People get their list, and they don’t budge as much. I know I’ve been guilty of not completing standard sets for a while now.
There are a lot of LGS stores in our area – some more competitive than others. The one I frequent is rather casual for the regulars but people will migrate between stores on different days for tourneys. Standard is king in my area with Modern way behind. I think this is driving the desire for top tier cards in Standard only when trading. The Modern players are far more rigid in playing “only their one deck” meaning they rarely ever need/want anything in trades. Commander has seen a surge recently which is about the only format I can trade cards for regularly. Maybe MM2 will change that some but I still think this will be more of the same – people asking for Modern staples that nobody has because the packs are just too expensive for most people leading to few opportunities in the trading realm.
totally agree. I barely make in person trades any more. Only people eager to trade are the people you don’t want to trade with. I think part of it is that trading for things you want in person can be super time consuming. I’ve seen people buylist cards to buy other cards cause its quicker and easier. Trading is almost not worth it
“Only people eager to trade are the people you don’t want to trade with. ”
That is an excellent nugget of wisdom. You hit the nail on the head 🙂
I’ve read a few articles saying trading at their LGS is rare, but it’s alive as ever at mine. We have a hefty EDH and standard crowd with a lot of overlap, so many people have distinct and varied binders. Pretty much every time I go to my LGS someone is trading, everyone’s binders are out, and I can easily make 3+ trades in a day.
I’m jealous! There is a large EDH contingent at my store (it actually kinda upsets me, since they take up a LOT of space), but they really only interact with their group. Maybe I’ll try trading with them more…
I still trade quite a bit IRL, and many people still trade at the stores I frequent. The stores I frequent also have a big EDH crowd and new player component, so I always make it a point to wade into the casual people with my binder (who are always very appreciative and receptive to trading) and often I can trade the non-primo tournament cards to those people for cards I actually want.
Both articles today cite “people don’t trade” and I haven’t found that to be true, but a couple of things I have noticed about trading now at stores, and possible solutions:
– Trades take WAY longer due to looking everything up. If you can be knowledgeable about prices, being ‘correct’ on the first few cards they look up will engender trust that you know what card prices are, and this can speed up the process. The faster trading is, the more people you can see to trade (kind of like online poker multi-tabling vs. live poker).
– A lot of people, even though they have binders and/or stacks of cards, will decline to trade now. This NEVER used to happen, as people would want to just look at cards in binders. I’m still not sure how to crack this nut 100%, but I’ve found that just sitting down with them and talking about what deck they are playing/what they just opened will break the ice enough to get them to open up (if you have a little time, or have exhausted other options).
– I let a lot of nickel and diming go, in order to save time on it in future trades; I let people have their .50 of TCGmid value in order to save 5+ minutes of adding things to both sides to balance the trade perfectly (and often you wind up with things you don’t really want, but just take because…). The negative EV rate of .50 per 5-10 minutes isn’t worth it; use that 5-10 minutes moving onto the next person.
Just my observations.
“Trades take WAY longer due to looking everything up.”
This is absolutely true, and probably a reason why I have executed so few in the past months. Once a card worth more than ten bucks hits the table, it becomes a game of Diplomacy. I don’t think Henry Kissinger could turn an Abrupt Decay into a Sarkhan at my FNM.
Why is that, do you think? I find that trades for bigger cards go MUCH faster than the smaller component trades.
Just recently, I was easily able to trade a DL Ojutai, an Unbroken, and some painlands away in very short trades, while trading away a Silumgar, Drifting Death and a foil basic land was agonizing. I found this to be particularly…telling of the mindset of some people.
I trade all the time at the local LGS, at events, and utilizing Deckbox and Pucatrade. Trading is what makes the game and experience worth it to me, its what keeps me involved with the game and allows me to make some friends along the way! Many people like to use their phones, but many people at my LGS are aware of what the prices are and typically we don’t have to tally everything up exactly. All around good experiences.
Where I pkay, the store doesn’t allow for direct buying and selling so everyone is basically forced to trade. And yes it does take a long time. Those with the best cards are too often the worst to trade with. I’ll always look at anyones binder. There’s always something decent to be picked up.
I started a Puca account a few weeks ago but I seem to have trouble finding people who are asking for the cards that I’m looking to trade. Am I using the site incorrectly? For instance, to use your example of Dromoka’s Command, when I type that card in the “Send a Card” section, there are zero people who are asking for it. Or take Collected Company. Lots of people want those but the only ones in the United States who do want the foil. The same happened for Narset planeswalker back when I was trying to dump her. Do you just have to get lucky and look at the right times?
Hey John! Pucatrade’s market has always been very fast, and with so many new users joining, it has only gotten faster. Once you have your inventory uploaded, you have to use a chrome addon called PageMonitor or similar to watch the page for you. Good trades are often gone within 10 seconds. PageMonitor will sound off an alarm, and you have to rush to be the first one to click “Send”. This system worked much better when there were fewer users, and trades would linger for at least a few minutes. I found checking the page all the time to be kind of unfun, so I made a program to check and send cards for me at the speed of a normal user. It is called MiseBot, and I am holding a giveaway for access to three lucky winners along with a ktk fetchland. Just google MiseBot and you will find my page. Good luck with your future endeavors on Pucatrade, it is seriously the best way to trade magic cards!
I’ve been using PucaTrade since Beta and I’m really happy to see another article about it. I find its best use to be trading up. I was a newer player once and I really wanted to play Kiki-Pod (RIP in peace) but all I had was Scapeshift (which was much cheaper at the time). I used PucaTrade to trade Scapeshift away plus anything I got from drafts and with a little patience I lived the dream of Kiki-Pod. Now that I’m pretty much out of Modern, I have my sights a little higher. I’m currently working on Puca to Power (in this case, Time Walk) and I’m quickly approaching 90,000 points. I just traded a foil Iterative Analysis that I got in a draft months ago. With FNMs as my only other real method for trading, I would have never found anyone who would have wanted that. PucaTrade has been an invaluable tool for me and I’m glad to see another positive review of it.
It is amazing to see how deluded people are with this Puca Trade. Why can’t you see it’s a pyramid scheme? It is amazing that they got this huge fundraising completed as well. The whole point system is proof of this. More and more points enter the system, but points NEVER leave the system. The only reason it keeps going is that more and more people use it. They even accelerate this by giving you more points for referring new users. What happens the day no-one has cards for sale? The guy with 90,000 points is just waiting for this disaster. You only sell cards for points because you know you can use these points to get other cards. What happens when more and more points enter the system? Eventually all the desirable cards will be gone and someone will be stuck with the worthless puca points. The obvious step towards this crash will be hyperinflation of the points. The points will inevitably be worth less and less
As long as card prices in pucatrade are set by the site and based on outside sources (tcgplayer?) there won’t be inflation. If users were able to offer more points for a card then yes, the guy with 90k points might devalue his own points and offer more than a card is worth in dollars which would raise the puca price of the card and lower the value of each puca point as a consequence. I think there are ways to offer more points currently using a workaround but its a lot of trouble. Don’t be afraid of puctrade friend – drink the coolaid.
Happy PucaTrade user here – since December. In just over 4 months I have traded over $2500 worth of cards on PucaTrade – most of which I never would have been able to trade at my LGS. I’ve been able to trade into cards for my EDH, Modern and Standard decks as well as others just for my long-term spec collection. I’ve found it difficult to trade at my LGS other than the first month after a new set is released and people want the hot cards for their deck for the next tournament.
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